Can your sales reps differentiate negative email replies from positive replies?
If yes, does your data help them figure out what to do next?
SDRs work on the front lines of all sales engagement and hone their craft in outbound sales strategies. They learn to tailor their approach for each customer and are always trying to find a better way to convert leads into opportunities. There are many best practices about how to get this right. On average, SDRs still need to attempt contact five to eight times before a lead converts into a sales opportunity.
What really gets the attention of potential buyers is a super personalized email in their inbox. B2B businesses need to pivot their approach with a new metric to measure the success of outbound email sequences. It’s called buyer sentiment and allows SDRs and their managers to peel back the layers when interpreting email replies.
Sentiment is about understanding the emotion behind a customer’s buying decisions and meeting them where they are. It’s reaching out with the right content at the right time and leads to more success in outbound efforts.
As a manager of SDRs and the co-founder of SDRs Anonymous, seeing sentiment gives me the ability to analyze the replies to our email sequences and use this data to coach my reps on how to really connect with their customers.
Intent data and sentiment data: understanding your customer
Intent data is about identifying where the customer is in their buying journey and what they are currently researching online. The rep can see when there is a high-priority opportunity and get in front of the customer while the project is top of mind for them.
Sentiment data is about really understanding the emotion and the why behind the response from a customer. This helps us with our prospecting strategies but it also helps our reps develop their skill set and become stronger in their role. Learning how to build rapport and a relationship with a customer is the bedrock of a successful sales organization. In fact, even simple personalization, like including a company name in your subject line, improves open rates by 22%.
The aim is to reach the prospect at an emotional level as the SDR adds them to the top of the sales funnel. The SDR needs to unpack emotional pain and tap in to the emotional sale. Later, when the customer reaches the AE, they can begin the rational evaluation of your product.
3 ways to use sentiment data
Let’s discuss three core ways you can use sentiment data well.
1. In-the-moment coaching
Are all replies created equal? Or is there a positive reply and a negative reply? Are these replies leading to meetings booked or are they referring us to someone else in the organization?
Sentiment data also tells us how to handle objections. When a customer says that now is bad timing, I know that my rep didn’t understand the customer’s pain enough to drive value and offer a solution to their current problems. This is actually gold for us. Now we can pivot in our messaging and personalize the next email to show we can solve their current needs and, at the same time, reduce the number of touchpoints needed to convert.
2. Hone each rep’s superpower
The industry average for conversion rates on emails is around 6%. But simple changes in email personalization can increase your reply rate by 100%. I coach my reps to identify personas based on the sales strategy Skip Miller teaches in his book Selling Above and Below the Line.
Above-the-line personas are C-level and VP executives. They are the visionaries for their business. These prospects are interested in the big picture and are aware of all company initiatives. They also set budgets. Reps can create urgency, shorten deal cycles, and increase spend by addressing pain across multiple initiatives. Reps can also position our offering as a way to gain market share and increase the growth of the business.
When speaking to a sales director or manager, reps need to build their strategy to answer questions like: how can we increase revenue while decreasing costs? Below the line personas are interested in features, functions and benefits.
3. Pivot on content strategy
Sentiment strategy is about taking a deeper dive and understanding which bucket these replies land in, and how we can improve our content strategy. For example, referrals often tell us that we are not speaking the right languages to the right personas.
As a manager, I can click into a referral and drill down into the messages. Most of the time I see that we were speaking about features and functions to someone at the VP level and we were referred down to a manager or to another team. This is a coachable moment for the rep to pivot on their content strategy to create a more successful outbound campaign.
Put this into practice
Here are two real-world examples of email responses that my reps Coral and Katie received. Take a look and tell me what sentiment we are seeing.
Coral received this response from Andy:
This is a positive reply and falls into “miscellaneous reasons”. Andy’s not telling Coral no at all; he’s asking for a bit more time with his team.
Coral’s next step is to create a task to follow up with Andy in three days:
“Hey Andy, were you able to discuss with your team? Wanted to continue our conversation.”
Katie received this response from Eric:
This falls into the bad timing bucket but is still a positive reply. Katie will take a nurture approach moving forward.
Since Eric is in charge of headcount growth and innovations, Katie needs to nurture this lead and be top of mind when he is ready to talk. This is actually a great time to stay engaged by sending him content that adds value. When they are ready to implement their new strategies, kick off initiatives and spend their budget, Katie will be top of mind!
Analyzing sentiment trends gives you much deeper insight into where your objections are coming from and help your reps pivot their strategy in the moment. To learn more about how to improve SDR response rates and create effective outbound strategies, check out: How I Reduced My Sales Team’s Objection Rate by 61%